Listen to this article
A senior member of the European Parliament has said Britain had made a “historic mistake” by triggering the Brexit process, warning Britons should brace themselves for a poorer quality of life after withdrawing from the bloc.
Warning the UK would face a “very costly” exit bill, Manfred Weber, a close ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of the largest group in the EU parliament, said negotiations would expose the “lie” of Brexiters.
“Those who fought in last year’s referendum campaign in favour of Brexit told the people that this would save a lot of taxpayers’ money in Great Britain, and the [exit] bill debate, the bill question, will give the proof that this was a lie,” Mr Weber said.
Mr Weber, the head of the parliament’s European People’s Party group, also warned of broad negative consequences for the UK. Leaving means “not a better deal, it means leaving,” he said.
EU regulation is aimed at making life “more comfortable, easier, more safe,” he said, citing easier travel and business opportunities.
“The British people decided to leave this union, so it will be not so comfortable any more, it will be not so safe anymore, and it will be not so economically strong any more. That is what they will face.”
“People will feel this in their daily life. There will be a direct impact.”
Countering Ms May’s claims that Brexit could be the dawn of a better relationship between Britain and the EU, Mr Weber said: “They leave the European Union…we will expect decisions to split and to cut relationships.”
Speaking at a summit of European centre-right politicians in Malta, Mr Weber said the technical complexity of the coming talks cannot be overestimated, and amounts to a “mission impossible.”
“We have thousands, ten thousand issues on the table in which we have to talk in detail.”
The task is not simplified by the fact that the UK already applies EU rules, he said. “That is not relevant…we have to guarantee the common standards for the future,” he said.
He said that avoiding border controls in Ireland and upholding the rights of EU nationals in Britain would be his group’s priorities in the talks.
“It’s a day that makes us all very sad,” he said. “We respect this historic mistake.”
Get alerts on Brexit when a new story is published